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Definitions and Characteristics of Theory Terms and Concepts

Assumptions are beliefs about phenomena one must accept as true to accept a theory about
the phenomena as true. Assumptions may be based on accepted knowledge or personal beliefs
and values. Although assumptions may not be susceptible to testing, they can be argued
Borrowed or shared theory is a theory developed in another discipline that is not adapted to
the worldview and practice of nursing.
Concepts are the elements or components of a phenomenon necessary to understand the
phenomenon. They are abstract and derived from impressions the human mind receives about
phenomena through sensing the environment.
Conceptual model is a set of interrelated concepts that framework symbolically represents
and conveys a mental image of a phenomenon. Conceptual models of nursing identify concepts
and describe their relationships to the phenomena of central concern to the discipline.
Constructs are the most complex type of concept. They are comprised of more than one
concept and typically built or constructed by the theorist or philosopher to fit a purpose. The
terms concept and construct are often used interchangeably, but some authors use concept
as the more general term—all constructs are concepts, but not all concepts are constructs.
Empirical indicators are very specific and concrete identifiers of concepts. They are actual
instructions, experimental conditions, and procedures used to observe or measure the concept(s)
of a theory.
Epistemology refers to theories of knowledge or how people come to have knowledge; in
nursing it is the study of the origins of nursing knowledge.
Hypotheses are tentative suggestions that a specific relationship exists between two concepts
or propositions. As the hypothesis is repeatedly confirmed, it progresses to an empirical
generalization and ultimately to a law.
Knowledge refers to the awareness or perception of reality acquired through insight, learning,
or investigation. In a discipline, knowledge is what is collectively seen to be a reasonably
accurate understanding of the world as seen by members of the discipline.
Laws is a proposition about the relationship between concepts in theory that has been
repeatedly validated. Laws are highly generalizable. Laws are found primarily in disciplines that
deal with observable and measurable phenomena, such as chemistry and physics. Conversely,
social and human sciences have few laws.
Metaparadigm represents the worldview of a discipline—the global perspective that subsumes
more specific views and approaches to the central concepts with which the discipline is
concerned. The metaparadigm is the ideology within which the theories, knowledge, and
processes for knowing find meaning and coherence. Nursing’s metaparadigm is generally
thought to consist of the concepts of person, environment, health, and nursing.
Middle range theory refers to a part of a discipline’s concerns related to particular topics. The
scope is narrower than that of broad-range or grand theories.
Nursing is a science, an art, and a practice discipline, and involves caring. Goals of nursing
include care of the well, care of the sick, assisting with self-care activities, helping individuals
attain their human potential, and discovering and using nature’s laws of health

beliefs and principles about the nature of knowledge and thought (epistemology) and about the nature of the entities represented in the metaparadigm (i. Nursing epistemology has been defined as “the study of the origins of nursing knowledge. to explain it. all professions are occupations. and (7) autonomy Nursing as Academic Disciplines are distinctions between bodies of knowledge found in academic settings. varying levels of skill. the patterns of knowing of its members. Models may be theoretical (something not directly observable—expressed in language or mathematics symbols) or empirical (replicas of observable reality—model of an eye. theories. A discipline is “a branch of knowledge ordered through the theories and methods evolving from more than one worldview of the phenomenon of concern” Nursing philosophy has been described as “a statement of foundational and universal assumptions. and the criteria for validating its knowledge claims” Metatheory refers to a theory about theory. In phenomenology. Philosophy is a statement of beliefs and values about human beings and their world. (3) registration. Philosophy of science in nursing helps to establish the meaning of science through an understanding and examination of nursing concepts. In nursing. and it is a forum for debate within the discipline Models are graphic or symbolic representations of phenomena that objectify and present certain perspectives or points of view about nature or function or both. The term paradigm is associated with Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions. theories. (2) power and authority over training and education. values. (6) lengthy socialization. beliefs. but not all occupations are professions Characteristics of a profession include (1) a defined knowledge base. the phenomena of interest become the subject matter that are the primary concerns of a discipline. and perspective.. values. and aims as they relate to nursing practice . It describes work to be done and frames an orientation within which the work will be accomplished. (4) altruistic service. discipline-specific knowledge that focuses on the human- universe-health process articulated in the nursing frameworks and theories” The goal of nursing science is to represent the nature of nursing—to understand it. occupations require widely varying levels of training or education. Paradigm is an organizing framework that contains concepts. and widely variable defined knowledge bases. nursing practice and human health processes [ontology])” Nursing Science as “the substantive. metatheory focuses on broad issues such as the processes of generating knowledge and theory development. Indeed. Phenomenology is the study of phenomena and emphasizes the appearance of things as opposed to the things themselves. for example). laws.e. Phenomena are the designation of an aspect of reality. its structure and methods.Nursing as Profession An occupation is a job or a career. with the objective of recognizing the connection between one’s experience. In general terms. Ontology is concerned with the study of existence and the nature of reality. whereas a profession is a learned vocation or occupation that has a status of superiority and precedence within a division of work. A discipline may have a number of paradigms. and to use it for the benefit of humankind. understanding is the goal of science. and principles that form the way a discipline interprets the subject matter with which it is concerned. assumptions. (5) a code of ethics.

They may be classified as propositions. and definitions. and relationship between knowledge and belief) Logic Study of principles and methods of reasoning (inference and argument) Ethics (axiology) Study of nature of values. Identify antecedents and consequences. or theorems. Select a concept. nature of truth. tested. Taxonomy is a classification scheme for defining or gathering together various phenomena. related. 7. and illegitimate cases. 2. Branches of Philosophy Metaphysics Study of the fundamental nature of reality and existence—general theory of reality Ontology Study of theory of being (what is or what exists) Cosmology Study of the physical universe Epistemology Study of knowledge (ways of knowing. Theory refers to a set of logically interrelated concepts. Identify all the uses of the concept possible. A theory purports to account for or characterize some phenomenon. and defining concepts that describe phenomena is the purpose of concept development or concept analysis. Determine the aims or purposes of analysis. hypotheses. recognizing.Practice or micro theory deals with a limited range of discrete phenomena that are specifically defined and are not expanded to include their link with the broad concerns of a discipline. 5. 4. 8. Determine the defining attributes. Identify model case. Concept analysis is an approach espoused by Walker and Avant (2005) to clarify the meanings of terms and to define terms (concepts) so that writers and readers share a common language. propositions. 6. Define empirical referents. laws. right and wrong (moral philosophy) Esthetics Study of appreciation of the arts or things beautiful Philosophy of science Study of science and scientific practice Political philosophy Study of citizen and state Strategies for Concept Analysis and Concept Development Clarifying. contrary. Taxonomies range in complexity from simple dichotomies to complicated hierarchical structures. and verified. Worldview is the philosophical frame of reference used by a social or cultural group to describe that group’s outlook on and beliefs about reality. which have been derived from philosophical beliefs of scientific data and from which questions or hypotheses can be deduced. . Identify borderline. Praxis is the application of a theory to cases encountered in experience. Relationship statements Relationship statements indicate specific relationships between two or more concepts. Steps in Concept Analysis 1. These processes serve as the basis for development of conceptual frameworks and research studies. invented. axioms. statements. 3.

contrary. nursing orders. 6. 2. a strategy for planning. 5. differences. Identify antecedents and consequences. and criteria for evaluation of intervention outcomes ■ Direct the delivery of nursing services ■ Serve as the basis for clinical information systems including the admission database. and patterns among the data to identify the new concept 2. 8. related. Determine the aims or purposes of analysis.     IMPORTANTS OF THEORY IN NURSING ■ Identify certain standards for nursing practice ■ Identify settings in which nursing practice should occur and the characteristics of what the model’s author considers recipients of nursing care ■ Identify distinctive nursing processes and technologies to be used. including parameters for client assessment. Three methods of synthesizing concepts are as follows: 1. a typology of intervention. Determine the defining attributes. care plan.Concept synthesis is used when concepts require development based on observation or other forms of evidence. Literary synthesis—involves reviewing a wide range of the literature to acquire new insights about the concept or to find new concepts Concept derivation perspective is often necessary when there are few concepts currently available to a nurse that explain a problem area. 7. It is applicable when a comparison or analogy can be made between one field or area Steps in Concept Derivation 1. and illegitimate cases. labels for client problems. . Select a concept. 3. and discharge summary ■ Guide the development of client classification systems ■ Direct quality assurance programs Classification of Theories in nursing The scope of a theory includes its level of specificity and the concreteness of its concepts and propositions. 4. Define empirical referents. Qualitative synthesis—relies on sensory data and looking for similarities. invented. The individual must develop a way to group or order the information about the phenomenon from his or her own viewpoint or theoretical requirement. Identify borderline. Identify all the uses of the concept possible. progress notes. Identify model case. Quantitative synthesis—requires numerical data to delineate those attributes that belong to the concept and those that do not 3.

*Grand theories are the most complex and broadest in scope. They attempt to explain broad areas within a discipline and may incorporate numerous other theories. but the theory is not complete. and specify the associations or relationships among some concepts Situation-relating theories are achieved when the conditions under which concepts are related are stated and the relational statements are able to describe future outcomes consistently. or worldview to describe the philosophical basis of the discipline.Specifying. generalizability. Situation-producing theories are those that prescribe activities necessary to reach defined goals. TYPE OR PURPOSE OF THEORY Factor-isolating theories are those that describe. prescriptive theories. properties. or practice theory to describe those smallest in scope. *Practice theories are also called microtheories.Formulating and analyzing statements explaining relationships between concepts. *Partial theories are those in the development stage. meaning. and dimensions. and name concepts. Factor-relating theories. philosophy. Prescriptive theories address nursing therapeutics and consequences of interventions Process of Theory Development Concept development-. defining. Descriptive theory identifies and describes the major concepts of phenomena but does not explain how or why the concepts are related. *Middle range theories are substantively specific and encompass a limited number of concepts and a limited aspect of the real world. . observe. They are comprised of relatively concrete concepts that are operationally defined and relatively concrete propositions that may be empirically tested. or situation specific theories and are the least complex. also involves determining empirical referents that can validate them Theory construction Structuring and contextualizing the components of the theory.  Metatheory. are those that relate concepts to one another. but they generally include examination of the theory’s origins. and clarifying the concepts used to describe a phenomenon of interest Statement development-. includes identifying assumptions and organizing linkages between and among the concepts and statements to form a theoretical structure Testing theoretical relationships Validating theoretical relationships through empirical testing Application of theory in practice Using research methods to assess how the theory can be applied in practice. situation-specific theory. describe the interrelationships among concepts or propositions. grand theory or microtheories to describe the comprehensive conceptual frameworks. Criteria for this process are variable. and testability. usefulness. Practice theories are more specific than middle range theories and produce specific directions for practice. logical adequacy. or explanatory theories. In a partial theory some concepts have been identified and some relationships between them have been identified. middle range or midrange theory to describe frameworks that are relatively more focused than the grand theories. and microtheories. research should provide evidence to evaluate the theory’s usefulness Theory EVALUATION Process has been defined as the process of systematically examining a theory.

Theory analysis is a nonjudgmental. and propositions. predict. Meleis. predict. Evaluation follows analysis and assesses the theory’s potential contribution to the discipline’s knowledge base. It refers to a systematic process of objectively examining the content. practice) What are the origins of the theory? What are the major concepts? What are the major theoretical propositions? What are the major assumptions? Is the context for use described? THEORY ANALYSIS Are concepts theoretically and operationally defined? Are statements theoretically and operationally defined? Are linkages explicit? Is the theory logically organized? Is there a model/diagram? Does the model contribute to clarifying the theory? Are the concepts. ). 2002). the main aim of which is to understand the theory (Fawcett. THEORY EVALUATION . or nursing administrators? Is the theory socially relevant? Is the theory relevant cross-culturally? Does the theory contribute to the discipline of nursing? What are implications for nursing related to implementation of the theory? . nursing researchers. is the final step of the process. 1993. explain. or theory critique. statements. In addition. concepts. research. and function of a theory. Theory analysis is conducted if the theory or framework has potential for being useful in practice. The functional components consist of the concepts of the theory and how they are used to describe. detailed examination of a theory. The structural components include assumptions. administration. and assumptions used consistently? Are outcomes or consequences stated or predicted? THEORY EVALUATION Is the theory congruent with current nursing standards? Is the theory congruent with current nursing interventions or therapeutics? Has the theory been tested empirically? Is it supported by research? Does it appear to be accurate/valid? Is there evidence that the theory has been used by nursing educators. prescribe) What is the scope or level of the theory? (grand. or control THEORY ANALYSIS is the second phase of the evaluation process. related works by others are examined to gain a clear understanding of the structural and functional components of the theory. 2007). Synthesized Method for Theory Evaluation THEORY DESCRIPTION What is the purpose of the theory? (describe.THEORY DESCRIPTION is the initial step in the evaluation process. This involves evaluation of how the theory is used to direct nursing practice and interventions and whether or not it contributes to favorable outcomes (Hickman. structure. the works of a theorist are reviewed with a focus on the historical context of the theory. or education. explain. middle range. In theory description.